It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Scapegoat or Golden Child: victims of narcissistic apartheid

Apartheid, a word derived from the Afrikaans word for “apartness,” was a governmental policy of segregation against non-whites in South Africa until the last decade of the 20th century. Since that time, the word has evolved to mean segregation in other contexts as well.

Like most Americans, my view of South Africa’s apartheid system government was that it oppressed the non-white members of its society while providing unjust advantage and privilege to the white members. It was not until I lived here for a while that I realized how simplistic and misleading that viewpoint actually was.

During the apartheid, not only did the non-white people live under onerous restrictions, but the whites did as well. White people could not go to certain parts of their country—they were reserved for non-whites. So, while the beautiful bathing beaches of Durban were white-only, others relegated to the rocky, less pristine shores, if a white person wished to go rock climbing or fishing, take photos of the rock formations or just sit on the rocks that were, perhaps, closer to home than the white-only beaches, he was forbidden to do so.

This may seem small, but this segregation extended to all facets of society. White people could not associate with non-whites, even if they truly wanted to. To be romantically involved with a non-white put you in danger of being jailed; you could not buy a house or even land wherever you wanted—you had to limit such a purchase to areas designated for whites. You had no freedom of association. News coming into the country was filtered to remove any trace of information that might present free options to the minds of the people; movies were censored, television not even permitted in the country until the late 1970s, and then the programming was tightly controlled so as not to provide any incentive to rock the separatist’s boat.

This is not to say that the lot of the white South African was as bad as the lot of the blacks, coloureds and “Asians” (actually, people of Indian descent whose ancestors came here as manual labourers in the sugar cane fields). It was not as bad—but it was not a life of unfettered freedom.

One of the legacies of apartheid that persists to this day, nearly two decades after its end, is the persistent sense, among the white people, that they should be privileged. They feel an entitlement to things people in free societies have known all along were not possible: complete safety, for example. The apartheid society was a police state: if you weren’t in the “right” part of town (based on your race), especially after dark, you risked arrest. Crime statistics were reported only on crimes against whites during this time, so modern crime statistics seem alarmingly high by comparison as they report all crime regardless of the race of the victim. White people in this country expect to be safe everywhere, all of the time and blame the non-white government because they are not.

White people here also have other expectations—a sense of entitlement, if you will—that comes as a legacy of their years of being the advantaged class. Affirmative action is alive and well here and when a young black is hired over a young white, both of them having the same educational background and experience, people cry “unfair,” as if it would have somehow been more fair to hire the white guy. But unlike Americans, who also struggle with a sense of unfairness with regard to Affirmative Action, South Africans are prone to “throw their toys out of the cot”—to have a tantrum about the situation that involves pulling up sticks and moving to another country where they can be terribly surprised to learn that crime and workplace competitiveness also exist!

If you have been following along with this, perhaps you have picked up the subtext: in apartheid South Africa, the non-white citizens were the Scapegoats, the whites were the Golden Children. The society was a macrocosm of life in a dysfunctional household in which the dominant parent was narcissistic. It featured such staples of the narcissistic home as triangulation (information in and out of the country channelled through a single filtering source), gaslighting (telling people their own perceptions of right and wrong, fair and unfair were incorrect), rigid control, blaming, and the creation of a fantastical unreality, an ideal state, in which everyone there must deny reality and buy into the fantasy or suffer the consequences.

In a narcissistic household, one (or more) members of the family are singled out to be the scapegoat, the one to whom the narcissists assigns blame for just about everything. I, for example, was told by my mother when I was 14 that everything that was wrong in her life was my fault—because I had been born! Taking responsibility for getting pregnant with me was not in the cards there—no, the fact of my existence was the reason her fine plans (fantasies) for her life had not panned out.

In these narcissistic household there in also at least one Golden Child, the child who can do no wrong, the child who is the spoiled darling of the narcissist. The Scapegoat may be even be held responsible for the behaviour of the Golden Child—when I was a kid, I got punished when my younger (but bigger) brother misbehaved because I was the oldest and it was therefore my job to make him do his chores and stay out of trouble. This was the case from as young as I can remember and the patent absurdity of making a scrawny 3 year old responsible for the actions of her sturdy, unsupervised toddler brother never seemed to dawn on my mother.

In a household in which there is only one child, that child may alternately be the Scapegoat and the Golden Child, depending on the narcissist’s mood and need to blame something on someone. This has got to be both confusing and crazy-making for the child but, for some odd reason, it seems perfectly rational to the narcissist.

We all have sympathy for the scapegoated child. Nobody should have to live their lives being blamed—and penalized for—the behaviours of other people, but this is what happens in the narcissistic household. But most of us don’t harbour an equal amount of sympathy for the Golden Child. Just like in our view of South Africa’s apartheid era, we sympathize with the downtrodden non-white citizens while at the same time, completely ignoring the dysfunction their more privileged brethren were trained into.

This dysfunction is pervasive and can even define who that Golden Child becomes as a person. They can be resistant to change simple because they fear—sometimes on an intellectually inaccessible level—that change will mean them losing their privilege. Look at the controversy about gay marriage: those who do not have the right to marry seek to share that right with those who do. They want to share. But the opponents are vocal in their fear that somehow extending the right to marry to gay people will somehow diminish their own marriages, take something away from them, even though they are unable to articulate how Adam and Steve getting married will have any tangible effect on their own unions. That other Western nations have legalized it with no deleterious effect on traditional male-female marriages, that it has not led to marrying siblings or pets, penetrates not. These, the holders of state-given rights, are fearful of losing something if those same rights are extended to those who have been heretofore denied them.

While there really is nothing for the opponents to lose in extending marriage rights to the LGBT community, such is not the case in the narcissistic household. The Golden Child may grow up with privilege, but she also grows up with the sure knowledge that at the caprice of the narcissistic parent, her position of privilege can be ended in a heartbeat. And one of the surest ways of getting yourself demoted from Golden Child to Scapegoat is to sympathize with that Scapegoat. The Golden Child must become a psychic “Mini-me” to the narcissist or risk the loss of privilege. And, because there is not middle ground in the narcissist’s mind—if you aren’t for her, then you must be against her—to avoid being cast down, the Golden Child must pander to the narcissistic parent, and in exchange receive the adoration and privileged treatment denied the Scapegoat.

While I was a Scapegoat for most of my life, I did have a brief period as the Golden Child. Not because my mother became disenchanted with my Golden Child brother, however, but because she found a “use” for me. She discovered that I could sing—really sing—when I was about 6 or 7 years old and decided she was going to make me into the next Shirley Temple (a well-known child star of my mother’s youth). Having been the Scapegoat for all of my years with her, I dreaded attention, as it usually meant I was going to end up getting hurt or punished in some way. My mother, however, thought to motivate me by telling me how famous she was going to make me (and, I heard her tell others, how rich I was going to make her), but the whole idea of fame gave me the shudders. It was just too much attention, which I perceived as being dangerous. But during that time, my mother spent hours sewing costumes, curling my poker-straight hair, painting my face with her cosmetics, and dragging me from audition to audition, from talent contests to nightclubs to TV programs to whatever venue she could dig up for me to stand in front of a large audience, my knobby knees virtually knocking with stage fright. She bragged about me, implying that other people’s children were inferior because they didn’t have my big talent. What she never did was pay attention to what I really wanted—something Golden Children often suffer from as much as Scapegoats. When, after a couple of years, it became apparent that I did not want fame the way she did, I was bumped from my tenuous position as Golden Child back to my familiar place among the cinders.

Golden Children suffer in ways we Scapegoats—and even the Golden Children themselves—may not readily recognize. Charlie’s brother, Alvin, was a Golden Child, blatantly his mother’s favourite. And he was a self-made multi-millionaire. But he made his money by skating on the thin edge of the law, disadvantaging others to advantage himself financially, more a con man than a businessman. He grew up without morals, without values, without empathy for anyone other than himself, including the mother who idolized him. He thought himself happy, rolling in money, but he drank himself stupid and had a string of unhappy marriages to women who were no less fixated on him money than he was. He had no respect for others, no self respect either. His mother excused his every transgression by convincing herself that he behaved no different from any other rich man, and to maintain his mother’s adulation, he had to maintain his wealth, no matter who he hurt in the bargain—himself, his estranged daughter, his brother, even 90+ year old ladies he conned into buying investment instruments that were useless to them but paid him a handsome commission.

There is a critical difference between the victims of South Africa’s apartheid regime and the victims of a narcissistic household: where the white South Africans did not have much in the way of democratic role models (that being a concept vigorously suppressed by the State) and the entered adulthood with precious few examples of another way to think or be, the Golden Child has an abundance of examples and role models, from schoolmates and teachers to television and movies to magazines and books, to exemplify a different way of thinking, a more just set of values, a more compassionate way of feeling. Upon achieving adulthood, the Golden Child does not remain trapped in the apartheid of the narcissist’s fantasy world unless he wants to. The Golden Child, unlike the white apartheid victim in the “old days,” has a feast of freedom set at her feet, a feast from which she may partake at any time. Nobody broadcasts messages of elitism to the Golden Child and suppresses messages of justice and fairness as a global phenomenon. The Golden Child, should she desire to do so, may step out from under the mantle of privilege and entitlement settled on her shoulders by a dysfunctional, manipulative parent. Unlike the white apartheid victims of 20 years ago, freedom is at the Golden Child’s fingertips and the consequences of embracing it is highly unlikely to be beatings, imprisonment, or even death.

And yet too many Golden Children will not take the freedom because they value their positions of privilege too much to jeopardize it. From small things like expecting receive the best piece of meat at the dinner table to big things like not feeling bad when receiving a family inheritance that left out the Scapegoat sibling, Golden Children receive much as a result of their assigned role in the family, often at the expense of others, and as adults, few of them find any reason to change that. And so they remain spoilt, entitled, indulged. Without remorse. Without compassion. And without coercion.


  1. You have summed up the life of the golden child perfectly. My mother is on the milder end of the spectrum although that is probably due to the fact that my siblings and I allowed her to control and manipulate for over 40 years without any complaint! Of course we complained to each other but we could never risk her wrath by voicing our concerns to we went along with it. Personally I could feel the rage and frustration festering below the surface. At 53 years of age I could no longer bear to be oppressed (and that is exactly the feeling) and manipulated. I no longer wanted to agree with all her opinions. I wanted out. So I confronted her and all hell broke loose. Until that point I think we were all golden children in her eyes, each too frightened to go against her. Suddenly the dynamics changed and our family had a scapegoat. Me! This is a hard place to be, especially if all your adult life you have been a people pleaser and pandered to your NM.
    To suddenly become the object of attention and gossip is really difficult but it is a more honest place to be. As bad as this feels at times I would never swap places with my golden child siblings.

    1. Sometimes a place of privilege is not the pedestal it appears to be to others, but a gilded cage. I am sorry you had to fall from grace and find yourself in cinders with me and the other SGs, but happy that you are finally free.

      There is a price for everything in our lives and sadly, if you are from a dysfunctional household, your own parent(s) will exact it. Most of us come to the SG designation early in life, we are inured to it, so I imagine it is particularly difficult to have your family turn on you later in life, to turn your life upside down. But I urge you to keep reading, to keep exploring--there is LOTS of information out there to help you and I will be exploring many aspects of being the child of narcissists in the future.

      Welcome to freedom!

      Hugs to you


    2. I've always been SG, from Day One, but I do agree with the last statement of yours Anonymous. I would never swap places with my golden child siblings. They still have to be around NM all too frequently. We have two GC, one full-time SG, and a Lost Child who was probably hurt more than any of us. Since she is my twin, she most often gets lumped in with SG me as an appendage with no true identity of her own. Since she didn't feel the full brunt of being SG as severely as I did, she kept trying to earn NM's approval way way way too long.

      I figured out when I was twelve that NM would never love me, though I did not figure out the depth of her pathology until I was in my 30s. My twin kept opening herself up for more until she went NC when she was in her 40s, even serving time as a "flying monkey" hoping that would gain her favor. Of course, nothing ever worked.

      My GC sibs? One lived with NM until she was in her late 30s and is following the script well. Successful (the youngest executive in her company's history- not just female executive- the youngest ever!-with a secretary, a corner office and a company car: her full title given by NM and included in every introduction NM makes when she speaks of GC) but not in the ways she used to say she wanted when she was younger. She was the one who wanted to be a SAHM, but that will never happen now. Married at 38, she now has two kids (one GC daughter about whose accomplishments we always hear and one sickly younger son who is never mentioned and no pictures sent out), a younger husband who makes less money, and lives very close to NM and will never, ever escape.

      I got off easy compared to the others. Being SG let me break away way younger and live my own life. It sounds crazy, but since there are relatively few choices, SG with nothing is way better than GC with NM.

  2. Dear Violet,

    Thank you so much for this blog. Ever since I came across it, I've been reading avidly. Incredible how malignant narcissists are so much alike. I feel like I've been reading about the monster that is my 'mother'. My healing journey started on Anna's blog; it was a real eye-opener. I didn't know there was a name for witches like my 'mother' - or depressingly that there seems to be quite a number of them out there, inflicting their evil on anyone who crosses their path. Reading your blog is a huge comfort. Still surprised that 6 years of no contact and the anger can really well up. How can it not I suppose. Whenever I reflect on the path of destruction that my 'mother' has left in her wake - the lives she has ruined, the character assassinations, the scandals, the pain, the splintering of families (starting with her own)I just wish she never existed.

    Oh by the way, the DoNM forum is one creepy place. I tried to join to take a look around but I was subjected to a grilling by one of the admins and never bothered to reply. Paranoid control-freaks - I think they're narcissists themselves. Anyway, thank you again Violet. Resources like this helped me heal more than therapy. Some people can be lucky I guess, but some therapists don't understand the real EVIL that is malignant narcissism. Almost all my epiphanies and steps forward came from reading the experiences and analysis of others like us. This blog is a treasure, and so are you.

    Much respect,

    Lola :)

    1. Hello, Lola and welcome.

      I have read Anna's blog--she is articulate and incisive and very insightful, but it seems to me she has been stuck in 'angry mode' for a long time. Anger, in a DoNM, is a healthy thing when it motivates us to take action to improve our lives, but you can only live that way for so long before you start to burn out. I have seen Anna take breaks from her blog because, I think, the energy it takes to sustain that anger wearies her after a time. I haven't checked her blog in a while, but I hope she is moving on from the anger and starting to heal.

      "Character assassination"--oh, yes. NMs are really good at that, aren't they? You know your NM has done a bang-up job when your own kid believes the lies even in the face of witnesses supporting the truth--my experience with NM's character assassination. I can also relate to the "I just wish she never existed" feeling, too--the wake of destruction left behind mine continues to spread and I think the world would be a better place had she never seen the light of day. Of course, that would mean I would never have existed, but given the kind of things I have had to endure in my life, I can honestly say that I would rather be dead than to have to relive many of them.

      I'm with you on the DoNM forum. It would not surprise me at all to discover the founder and admin diagnosed as narcissists. The purpose of the forum is not to provide healing or comfort for DoNMs but to provide the admins with fodder for writing books about us and making money off our pain. We exist for them to exploit for their own gain. If you look at the level of healing in the members, in a normal cross-section you would find women at various levels of healing, from the raw, still-reeling, fresh-to-realization newbie to old birds like me, who've been around the track a few times and are at the far end of the healing spectrum. You would find people totally ignorant of the dynamics they are dealing with all the way up through mental health professionals who know the score both through their work and their experiences as a DoNM. The admins have carefully eliminated the women who are on the healing end of the spectrum and the mental health professionals: we are able to spot the N, contradict their misinformation, provide strength to the other members, which the admins don't want: it is more difficult to exploit the weaker members with strong, cognizant ones there to say "Hey, wait a minute--I have a degree in psychology and 10 years of experience, and what you said is not true!" (I am not implying that I am a mental health professional--I am not. But I was there when one was banned from the group for just such an infraction and then I was banned for sticking up for her!).

      Thank you for your kind words and I hope you continue to find this blog helpful. I am a strong advocate of therapy, but it MUST be with the right therapist, preferably someone who has experience in dealing with adults who were abused in childhood. It does work, as I have had the great good fortune to find out.

      Please stay in touch.



  3. My husband was just awarded custody of his 15 yr old daughter from a NM. My step-daughter was the scapegoat. So much so, that she was talked into being homeschooled (of course it was the childs idea) in order to stay home and tend to the household chores. She ended up failing 2 grades. The NM worked full time and when she got home in the evening, was waited on hand and foot by everyone in the home, including her husband. There was no one to homeschool my step-daughter. They lived two states away and it was also hidden from us. By the time we discovered it, the damage was done. NM is very clever and can get children to lie for her.

    The golden child, a male, failed freshman year and then again, sophomore year. He left sophomore year with a cumulative 0.89 GPA. The NM gets on Facebook and brags about how awesome her son is. What a genius he is. He's studying physics and is going to be a brilliant physicist. Everyone buys her BS. She does this right out in the open where people know he flunked out of school. The GC was also pulled out of school to homeschool, but he was allowed to sit around, or sleep all day and do nothing. He was the one who was rewarded greatly and was his mother's minion. It was my step-daughters job to tend to him as well as her younger siblings. It's all so very sad. He definitely has borderline personality disorder and is also narcissistic.

    Long story short, my husband was able to obtain a no-contact order for 10days which was then extended a month because the mother blamed everything on her "incompetant daughter" as to why she was homeschooled with no one to instruct her and why she failed. The judge didn't buy her BS.

    We now were awarded custody but only after three months of going back and forth over negotiations. The NM wanted my husband to sign a child support waiver so she wouldn't be responsible for childsupport but wanted joint custody. She's a legislative assistant, it's not like she couldn't afford it. It would be funny if it wasn't so pathetic. Of course my husband refused. Finally, she gave up and signed over custody to avoid another embarrassing court hearing.

    My step-daughter has made it out of there seemingly unscathed but she's two years behind in school because of this woman, and also still feels it's her job to write home and make sure everyone is obeying 'Momma'.

    I am hoping that I can find answers for her.
    I am so glad I found your blog. I see a lot of similarities between you and my step-daughter. I love her with all of my heart and I want to do everything to help her get beyond her mommy issues. I want her future light of baggage.

  4. I have a few pieces of advice for you--I see myself in your step daughter and I was 14 when I went to live with my father and step mother. It was, ultimately, not a successful experience but with hindsight, I can see what MIGHT have worked.

    First of all, read up on Stockholm Syndrome--I suspect your stepdaughter is suffering from it, due to the letters to the others admonishing them to mind mum. Secondly--but of no less importance--get her into therapy immediately. She's been used as a tool and a political football and never allowed to develop normally and this is a critical time for her. I ended up unmarried and pregnant at 17 because I so desperately wanted someone to love me unconditionally and forever and, being young and naive, expected that my baby would give me that. (That didn't work out so well, either.) Her self-esteem is probably underwater and what little she gets comes from doing the bidding of a stronger other person in hopes of getting some kind of positive feedback--this makes her very vulnerable to predators of all kinds, including those of her own age.

    She may not like the idea of going to is not the time to wimp out and let her have her way. You cannot undo all of the damage her NM has done by letting her have her own way. She needs healthy discipline, but she also needs to have a sense that you and her father are working together FOR her and, because she is at an age where she should be individuating, she needs to be part of it, to have some kind of power over her own life. The optimal situation should not be one where she is given free rein, however--set out a series of acceptable options and then let her choose from them.

    Watch her carefully for signs of drug abuse, self-abuse (like cutting), sexual activity. Don't IMPOSE your values or morality on her...she needs to develop her own for herself...but be a good example of them. Engage her in conversation as if she was another adult, ask her opinion, ask about teen culture and LISTEN to the answers.

    Above all, never forget that kids observe us constantly and they learn more from what they see than what you tell them. I once watched my stepmother sit on the couch with her third child, who was about 18 months, and play with him and tickle him and just LOVE him. She told him she loved him, aloud and in front of an audience. It was a revelation to me!! I thought in terms of "allowed" because my life, to that point, had consisted of what I was and was not allowed to do, say, think, etc., and that was my paradigm--the "box" I was thinking inside of. It never occurred to me that parents were "allowed" to say they loved their kids or that they drew delight from making their children happy in small, overt ways. It was the first of many epiphanies I received, thanks to my stepmother, and it was profound and it positively affected my relationship with my children when they were young.

    What you DEMONSTRATE will have more impact on her than what you say. You must purge yourself of any kind of hypocrisy to the degree you can, because she will zero in on that with unerring accuracy and hold you in contempt for it. Never, ever badmouth her mother unless SHE opens the topic, and then, try to stick to facts.

    Above all, show respect for her. Demonstrate respect. She will not know what to do with it at first. If she is disrespectful to you, you must call her on it, but not harshly. A simple "There is no need for disrespect, Susan. I treat you with respect and am entitled to respect from you," is sufficient. Expect that she will not know what it means to be respectful--her life has been ruled by fear and fear is not respect.

    Best of luck to you on this--you have a HUGE job ahead of you. But you can be a strong influence for good and for healing in this girl--even though our relationship did not ultimately work out, my stepmother had a profound positive influence on my life. She did a good job with what she had and I benefitted from it.

    Hugs to you and please keep in touch


  5. This was the dynamics in my family. There were just the 3 of us women:the NM, GCsister and myself. Those two would constantly double-team me and I couldn't get anyone to listen to my side of the story. I was simply dismissed as being a 'rebellious child.' Period.

    1. That is an extremely frustrating position to find yourself in, OL, and I can truly relate. Sadly, if that is their dynamic, it's not going to improve if for no other reason than it works for them. As an adult you may not be dismissed as a "rebellious child," but they'll find something else suitably scathing and equally dismissable.

      What you describe is a microcosm of the "mob mentality." You will encounter people prone to that behaviour all your life, so it is good to learn early how to deal with them and the emotions they spark in you. The fact that they devolve into mindless emotionalism, I think, gives you the right to refuse to engage them until and unless they resume dealing with you on a rational level. A simple "you are going to believe what you want to believe so there is no point in my saying anything further to you" is sufficient. Then shut up. Give them nothing more to chew on. If they engage in any typically N behaviours like sending in flying monkeys or triangulating or gaslighting you, ignore them until they are ready to talk rationally. Tell the flying monkeys "This is none of your business, I refuse to discuss it with you," and repeat as necessary. And recognize that you'll NEVER have your say until and unless what you have to say is exactly what they want to hear. You absolutely cannot win with these people because they will never allow it.

      The best advice I can give you in such situations is to retreat. Don't engage them. Recognize that the ONLY thing you will get out of engagement is strife and emotional pain. Better to walk away without a fight and save yourself the angst. "You people are hopeless," might be your parting shot, if you feel the need to lob one, but I have sadly learned that no amount of witnesses and/or incontrovertible proof will bring them around if they don't want to believe you and your side of a story: they will simply dismiss it and believe what they want. Been there, done that--please save yourself the heartache.

      A more productive way to deal with them is to use their behaviour to recognize who and what they are and that THEY can be dismissed by you. Then do it and get on with the business of making for yourself the kind of life you want and deserve, rather than taking the role they keep trying to shoehorn you into.

      I am sorry that you had to endure this kind of life: we have no control over the way our parents treated us, but we DO have control over how we treat ourselves. I hope your life is a celebration of your survival and overcoming such unpleasant beginnings.



    2. Hello Violet
      I'm not sure if this blog is still active but I am so glad I came across it.
      I have been in therapy all of my life learning how to cope with all of the above characteristics of my family. The narcissistic mother, gaslight in & I am the scapegoat.
      My recent event has made it more & more apparent that not having them in my life is the most healthiest choice I have made; however, my 7 year old son does not understand any of this (& why should he...he's 7). How do I explain to him why we do not see the family?

    3. You don't bring it up in his presence so that you don't spark any questions he is not already thinking about.

      If HE brings it up, you couch it in terms a child his age understands and you make it short and sweet: Grandma behaved badly and until she apologizes and makes things right, we aren't in contact with her. If he asks what she did, remember that a child his age shouldn't be burdened with adult concerns...that is just tell him that it is between you and Grandma and when Grandma makes it right, you will let him know.

      If he brings it up weeks or months later, you can say you haven't heard from Grandma and you are still waiting and he must wait, too. This puts responsibility on Grandma, where it belongs. When he gets into his teens, if the NC has continued and he wants more details, you can tell him that Grandma treated you and your family (that includes him) very disrespectfully and neither you nor he has to allow people to do that. If and when Grandma learns to treat you with respect, you will consider contact with her, but until that day, no.

      What you tell a child must be in context with their worlds--7 year olds understand the concept of consequences for their actions and the need to change behaviour to that required by the authority figure (and YOU are the authority figure in his life, not Grandma)--but they do not understand such concepts as respect like a teen would.

      Best of luck to you.

  6. Excellent post! I feel sympathy for my younger sister. She was more malleable and ended up a Golden Child. She has no personality of her own and I can she she suffers. I am an art therapist and when my narcissist mother was to draw her house, she drew my sister's. YIKES. I was the Scapegoat and thankful for that when I finally got a clue. I always voiced my opinion and was not so malleable... now I am free and have no contact with my "mother". YAY! :)

    1. Sounds like your NM is so thoroughly enmeshed with your sister that she can't tell where she leaves off and your sister begins. Unfortunately, until your sister comes to the conclusion that her enmeshment with your mother is hurting her and she wants out, not much help is available to her.

      I suspect GCs may have a worry we SGs should be able to relate to: while others may not believe what we suffer at the hands of our own mothers, I suspect GCs have trouble getting others to grasp their unhappiness--they who have all of the goodies, attention, manifestations of "love," gifts, etc.--what could THEY possibly have to be unhappy about? Unless you have been enmeshed and subsumed by a stronger personality, it may be rather difficult to grasp what must be a sense of being slowly snuffed out inside a gilded cage. But, like others of us who have dissatisfying lives, until they recognize and acknowledge their unhappiness and are willing to make changes in their lives to resolve it, there is no help for them. Imagine trying to break away from an engulfing NM who keeps throwing the guilt at you..."I gave you everything you ever wanted--ballet lessons, Harvard, money to buy your own house..." As hard as it is for us to break away, knowing how badly we were treated, imagine the difficulty for them, with no overt ill-treatment to look back on and bolster their efforts by reinforcing their feelings of having a legitimate need to escape.

      It is sometimes difficult to believe, but we were actually the lucky ones because our NMs gave us reasons to eventually leave, to individuate, to become our own persons rather than so surround us with the golden bars of their dysfunction that we were never able to even see, let alone become, our own real selves.

      I am glad you got out!



  7. Thank you Violet :) I agree!

    Here's a thought -may we be "Golden Childening" them still a biiiiiit when we say its harder for them to leave?

    Perhaps not, but it felt good to say that LOL. I do beleive a good person can see when others are maltreated, and react to it. Actually come to think about it, my grandma scapegoated my older sister and kind of golden childed me but I always stood up for my sister and refused my grandmother's suggestions...


    1. Good for you, Kristina--I'll bet your grandmother was really baffled by that!

      Actually, I think it IS harder for the Golden Child to break away. Raised to have little conscience or empathy and to have an abundance of entitlement, I doubt most of them even recognize the injustices they thrive on. My GCbro, in our one conversation after NM's death, said "Yah, she could be vindictive at times..." That was his whole acknowledgement of my 50+ years of being victimized by her. No empathy, no validation, only a minimizing of a half century of hell. But why not? What did HE know of the kinds of feelings NM's treatment elicited in me? It never happened to him...although he had to have seen--or feared--some things, hence his acknowledgement of her vindictiveness.

      I think it is tough, if you have no empathy and have never had a similar experience to what SG's go through, to really "get" it, even if you grew up in the same household. Much like the rest of the world. But some of us have an inner core of strength and natural empathy that even an N parent (or grandparent) can't destroy...sounds to me like you had that and that your sister was lucky to have you.



  8. I am the GC and the SG for my NF. I recently stopped talking to him. I told him that I'd start talking to him as soon as my junior year ended (since junior year is what colleges look at the most), but he keeps sending me these long text messages. They vary a lot, but there are three general themes.
    1. That we are the same person. That people like us never make friends or have successful careers (which is his excuse for not having either). That I'm destined to be a homeless drug addict just like him.
    2. I'm a horrible person and the grief I've caused him made him lose his job/home and overdose on drugs.
    3. That I'm an angel and he is a horrible person who never deserves to be happy and should commit suicide. These messages worry me a lot. He's been threatening me with suicide for years and I'm nervous that one day he'll really go through with it. I usually give in and call back with these messages.
    I really want him to get help because despite his faults he is a good guy and I want him to be happy. Do you have any advice on convincing him to go to therapy for either his NP or his drug abuse?

    1. While narcissists are extremely manipulative, suicide is not ordinarily one of their ploys: that is more often the province of a person suffering from BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). You might want to Google BPD and read up on the criteria for diagnosing it. BPD is a Cluster B personality disorder (as is NPD) and it is not uncommon for these disorders to be comorbid with one another, meaning a person can actually suffer from more than one of them at the same time.

      For your sake, I hope your father is more BPD than NPD because BPD is more amenable to treatment than NPD. NPD is pretty much resistant to treatment as the narcissist doesn't believe there is anything wrong with him/her and therefore no change on his/her part is's the rest of the world that needs to change.

      You father, frankly, sounds chronically depressed, lacking in self-discipline, and extremely manipulative. You must never forget that you can neither change another person nor be responsible for their choices: if your father does make an attempt at suicide, it is NOT your fault, no matter what he tells you. You seem already to be clear on him not taking responsibility for the way his life turned out...well, on the subject of suicide, he is doing the same thing. He is using the threat to manipulate you and you are letting him succeed.

      Psychologist Nina C. Miller once said "What you allow, you teach." What she meant is that when you allow someone to do something to you...manipulate you, abuse you, disrespect teach them that it is OK for them to do it to you. You are complicit. So what you must do is stiffen your backbone and resist: "You may not talk to me this way," or "I will not allow you to mamipulate me with this kind of talk." Depending on just how far along the spectrum your father is, he may or may not retaliate for your standing up to him, but this just puts you in the position of deciding whether you live you life for yourself, as an independent individual, or if you live as an extension of him. He obviously views you as an extension of himself, but you are not and you do yourself a disservice if you accept that thinking.

      The very best advice I can give you is to try to find a counsellor to talk to and ask their advice. If that is not possible, then here's the plan: agree with him (superficially) to pacify him until you can get out of the house and on your own. Never buy into what he says because he's full of crap and he's trying to rationalize and justify his bad life choices by seducing you into making the same. You cannot change him, any attempts to change him will be met with resistance. But, once you are on your own and have some leverage, you can use contact with you as the lever: "Go to a therapist or I will not speak with you. I want a report weekly from your therapist that you went and when I get the report, I'll come visit/have coffee/meet you for dinner. Any week you don't go to therapy, I will not see or speak to you." Don't let him know where you live or he will be at your doorstep. Hopefully, if you can manipulate him (fighting fire with fire) into a therapist's office and his NPD is mild, he can make some progress.

      But above all else, never forget that you do not control or even influence his choices, no matter what he chooses to do. If you did, you would not be in a position that you feel you need to research NPD or write to me for help.

      Best of luck to you and don't waver from your path.



  9. How do you stop being a people pleaser?. I am the scapegoat of the family and I get taken advantage of all the time. I can't say no to anything, people insult me all the time and i just seem to take it and do nothing. When my anger is really bad and say I hit someone ( which I'm not proud of,and which is very rare) because no listens to me, they call me unstable and make things worse.
    I am a 30 yr old male and my 3 brothers are just greedy non caring people, whose girlfriends and wives are all N and they are just the same as my mother. They all expect me to lend my things like dvds, my time if i help them, or just anything and when they don't give it back or I ask them for something they just call me petty for saying anything to them.
    I have no self confidence and have social anxiety , I think by reading your site is because of the way I was and am treated.
    I have tried to talk to my family but they go and tell each other everything and i just look stupid for it.
    Do you think i should just leave all of them?.

  10. The N family dynamic is horrible. I went NC with my NM and EF 10 months ago and I watch as the battle lines are drawn (yet again) into who is with and who is against the NM. This time though those who are not the GC seem to be sticking together. Nobody is wanting to challenge the NM or point out to the EF his role in all of this over the years but they arent buying her crap and allowing her to push them to isolate me.

    I was kicked out at 17 and she did such a fantastic job of isolating me that nobody talked to me, nobody cared how I was doing, it was like a vanished off the face of the earth, despite that I lived 2 doors away. Apparently I was spending all of my money on drugs. Fact is I didnt have any money. I was living off of a friend's dad who was on welfare and she ensured that I did not get my own welfare so I could finish high school.

    This time around though things are different. I think I have her scared and on the run. I've reported her molesting brother to the police and they are laying charges. I've advised her biggest client of who she is and the predator she has protected for all of these years. I called her lawyer and have been making FOI requests about the time I was left to twist in the wind when I should have been completing Grade 12 and I couldnt get welfare because of her.

    I know it sounds negative, but I'm going to use the legal system to absolutely destroy her reputation. She wants to keep up appearances? Good luck now. I've had enough of her little character assasinations that I've had to deal with over the past 20 years.

    Time for the narcissist to taste her own medicine.

  11. Dear Violet,
    Long time since i posted. A mistake that SGs commit is that they feel they need to get recompensed for all their sufferings and stick on to the narcisstic parent for their future inheritance. Even if the SG be a sole heir the possibilities and the attitude that i have seen of the NMs is that they want to annihiliate their wealth from the face of this earth and that their generation should die with them and none should inherit it.

    Most narcissists die a painful and slow death owing to alzheimers or other kinds of dementia and the SG is groomed to take care of changing adult diapers. All NMs train their submissive SGs to this end while the GC gets the inheritance. So the SG must select freedom over wealth and maintain NC. The first thing i did preemptively was to take the entire lot of my wife's NM, GC and the narcissistic father to the court singlehandedly alleging that the GC was going to be the sole inheritor and is entirely fradulent, secondly when the narcissistic father issued a death threat to me via my 9-y-o son, it became another supporting factor. They had to give an undertaking in court regarding NC. Unfortunately most SGs dont look so far ahead.

    Having lived several years with narcissists the SG is likely to develop health problems primarily hypertension. I would like to see the experience of fellow readers.

    1. My experience is very different from yours.

      I am a SG and was not cut out of the will -- in fact, my NF gave the three of us equal shares. (BTW, if you are named in a will you are called a beneficiary. If someone dies intestate, those who inherit his/her things are called heirs.)

      During the 20+ years that I didn't speak to my father, I was constantly pressured/advised, even by outsiders (like my attorney), to suck up to him so as not to be cut out. I refused.

      My NF hated my guts, so I have no explanation for why he didn't cut me out. His will was written about a year before he passed, so I suspect that it was a rewrite/he changed it (i.e., from a previous version that had me cut out).

      I suspect that my GC older brother and "lost" older sister may be furious that I wasn't cut out, but that's their problem. I also KNOW that the GC received a FORTUNE in gifts, cash, and "assistance" over the 2+ decades of my estrangement from my NF...

      One other thing: My NF dad included the "asshole" clause in his will, which states that anyone contesting the will is "unworthy" so gets NOTHING! That's CONTROL for you!

  12. What a well-written blog. My mother just died and I was the Scapegoat to her N. My sister, the Golden Child, is most likely borderline and is currently drunk on power with her Executor of the Estate designation that she keeps reminding me and my brother of.

    I'm sitting back and waiting and watching what will become of her. After not speaking to me for 2 years for imagined slights and after a rage-filled outburst by her to me while my mom sat idly by, I assume she will sidle up to me to with suggestions of family togetherness.

    She's going to get a big surprise in the form of no contact.

    I realized I couldn't see my mom as the narcissist she was even though I had all the puzzle pieces here in front of me...for years. All the dismissive, ignoring behavior. The inability to really support any of my endeavors. Her inability to express real concern if something happened to me. I couldn't put my finger on the big picture. I think I had to wait till she was dead because if I'd really realized what was going on, I'd be faced with having to have little contact with her.

    That wouldn't have been possible because the extended family, many of whom are in denial, would have thought ill of me and I don't think I could have lived with it. Even the ones who saw my mom as a little cruel and unhelpful didn't have the emotional connection of a daughter. Plus, my mother was good at complimenting me to other people. So they'd think I was crazy if I said she was unsupportive.

    I'm sure all sorts of rage is going to spill out of me at some point. But for now, I finally feel free. And lucky. Had she not gotten cancer, she would have lived till her mid 90s.

    It was only in the last year or so that I detected the colluding nature of my mom and sister together. That's one that threw me off. I now wonder if it had been happening for years and I never knew or if it was a new dynamic. Sick is what it is. It feels so surreal. Yet I feel relief. A strange set of things to feel at once.

  13. Being the golden child is no picnic. It comes with relentless obligation to be an extension of someone else's ego, and the constant fear of abandonment if you fall from grace. Unlike the scapegoat who is allowed be just a kid much of the time, the GC never gets to enjoy the relatively carefree, obligation-free lifestyle of a being a child. As an adult GC, I can tell you they share virtually all of the same challenges, frustrations and emotional baggage as their scapegoat siblings. They're cut of the same cloth, just in a different pattern.

    1. Your post is confusing to me. Scapegoats are not "allowed to be just a kid" as you said. To the contrary, we were MISERABLE and expected to act like little adults all the time!! We certainly didn't get to "enjoy the relatively carefree, obligation-free lifestyle of being a child" that you seem to be suggesting either.

    2. Please note that was the opinion of an anonymous commenter, not me.

      But the issue here is perspective: perhaps this is the way that commenter saw her SG sibling while feeling a heavy burden of expectation from the NM. Remember, this entire post is about how we may inaccurately perceive each other, SG vs GC. Scapegoats often perceive the Golden Child is highly privileged and pays no price for that privilege and, from the Goldens I have know, there is a heavy price of expectation coupled with the fear that the favoured status can be withdrawn at any time.

      I don't think most Scapegoats have an accurate picture of the Golden Child's world any more than the Golden's have an accurate picture of the burdens of the Scapegoat's.

  14. I am a GC. I have realized it most of my life. Being the youngest of three children, by thirteen, and fourteen years. I grew up almost like an only child.
    My brother was the eldest, then my sister, and thirteen years later i made my appearance.

    To me it seems that many SG hold resentment towards the GC, when it is no more their fault, that it is for someone being born with white or black skin, like the authors example in the article that compared apartheid, to growing up in a family with a NM.

    As I have matured, it has been a very slow awakening, and realization on who my mother really is. I am sixty one, and I started to see my mother as someone I would never have chosen for a friend by the time i was in my mid-twenties.
    Seeing her for who she really is, I can't even say I even like her.

    I am a very compassionate person, her callousness appalls me. Her lack of truly caring for the emotions of her children and grandchild dumbfounds me.

    I am just finding out that there is a name for what she is, and how she behaves.
    I am having so many aha moments I feel like I have been duped for most of my life!
    While I knew I wasn't happy with who I was realizing who my mother was. I didn't see how she was actually manipulating me. I have a strong personality, and I would have liked to have thought I am a good judge of character, but I think I have to admit, she's craftier than I ever imagined.

    I have recently fallen out of favor because i flatly refused to let her by tires for my car.
    The situation has gone from bad to worse. I have now found out that she has been keeping track of every cent or favor she has ever bestowed on me.
    She gave an accounting of it to my sister, the SG, for the last fourty years! It included any babysitting she may have done. HA! I guess now the SG becomes the GC, because she is all to happy that this has all unfolded.

    I have been self protecting myself for years now, and I didn't realize that was exactly what I was doing. Of course my mother moved to be near me from across the country, so I have never actually not had her in my life. Now that she is elderly, and in great shape I might add. I have been her only care taker. My sister lives 3000 miles away, and my brother is deceased.

    I have limited the time spent around her to doing things where I don't have to have too much conversation, because it is always negative. Shopping, movies, doctor's appointments, or maybe watching a tv show, all things where I don't have to listen to her talk about everyone, and make up stories about people. She has decided she is done with me and my husband.
    I've decided, she's not the only person that has a right to be angry.
    This GC is done with her, and I don't care what she does with any inheritance.

    I never enjoyed being a GC because of gifts. I did it because I was the only one besides my father that did anything for her, and she was my mother. I thought that's what kids were supposed to do for their parents.
    I have been trying to find some reading about the GC, but almost everything I have found at this points describes someone I hope I will never be, self involved spoiled brats, that never seem to achieve anything in life.
    I was trained, as were as all my other family members to walk on egg shells. I have been doing that for years, it feels good to be able to be angry, and not care what she thinks about it.

  15. I was raised a GC. I hated the attention & the jealousy that my NF sparked in others around me (to make himself look better). But I could do nothing about it, noone would believe that it was not a picnic being the GC, that it was not love.

    You may be wrong on one count, tho. In my experience, when a GC doesn't play the part they're the recipients of a Narcissistic Rage that that leaves them no doubt as to their survival possibilities. In my case, it wasn't the fear of not being the favourite, it was the fear of not surviving the Narcissistic Rage. And young children are very easily left with that impression.

    I protected my younger siblings as best I could, supported them when I could. Ironically the Forgotten one ended up a bully. The SC & GC ended up very f*cked up.

    But the price of being the GC to this day is the fact that I live in abject terror of doing anything that I genuinely want to do or that makes me happy. And I'm watching my life pass before my eyes while I am unable to affect change for my own good in it.

  16. Wow. I'm the SC of the family. Being introspective, I figured it out. My older sister is the GC. My dad (passed away) was the N and my mom was passive, but has picked up the negative communications over the years.

    Question: anytime I get close to visiting them they start criticizing me for nothing, which makes me want to not visit. I have a feeling they want to prevent the visit, so they can continue to complain that I don't visit. Any other ideas why they might act like they really want me to visit, then as I get close to, try to sabotage it? (I dread visiting - but also want things to be better.)

  17. I am now completely estranged (my choice) from my mother and golden girl sister. Its strange, but I actually DISLIKE my sister more than my mother - the reason? Well, you articulated it really well in this post - she has CHOSEN TO STAY in her position of entitlement, goodies etc - EVEN THOUGH she too suffered horrendous bullying and emotional abuse at the hands of King Narc Dad. I am two years older than her, and two more frightened out of their wits kids you could ever meet! She has completely rewritten history, taken to the 'party-line' with my truly screwed-up mother!
    It was ME that abused her, was always jealous of her, always had a problem with her - She is an authority ON ME - (funny she even uses the same expressions and phrases as mother when she talks to me - eg: you were born with an evil and twisted mind (when I talked to her about my experiences with our child-molesting father)) - DESPITE it all, in her eyes I AM the problem.

    The final straw for me with her, was her treatment of me at my 50th birthday. She says she is a Christian (in fact both she and my mother make much of their faith - they clearly do not look at their Bible's very much - and I doubt that God appreciates his Word being used as a club to destroy an innocent person). Free at last - never going back! BUT - my sister is an incredibly sad and lonely person. The consequences of her abuses have left deep scars that she is unwilling to face - the Christianity is a Band-Aid on a gushing wound - hence the very un-Christian behaviour (includes physical violence towards me. She has indicated that she 'will commit suicide' for the last 30plus years - although Screwed up Mother very (proudly)it sounded like to me- told me 'she has wanted to kill her self since she was 12' and then carried on talking about the weather! Cold hearted cow! When I ventured to 'call my mother out on it' - that is to ask her WHY we were not trying to get my sister some help - as there are clearly HUGE problems, and perhaps she may one day actually do it - Mother flew at me saying 'she will NEVER do it - she knows it is a SIN' - er, but talking about doing it for 30 years is not a sin????? Against herself??????? Her right to have a peaceful life?????? What about that?? Where is the 'fruitage of the Spirit??????? Anyways, finally sister books a counsellor - a woman WHO IS IN HER CONGREGATION - this, to me, seemed wrong - but what can I do? As I have no direct communication with my sister - mother controls it all - messages and info all goes through her (but no contact with her either as I mentioned) mother told me several months ago, that after 3 sessions with the counsellor - my sister elected not to go anymore because 'she was only saying what she THOUGHT the counsellor wanted to hear - and paying £70 per hour FOR THAT' of course, this to me is the proof that my sister does not have her OWN MIND. She simply doesn't know who she is. Mother didn't pick up on it though! One last thing, coz I know I've rambled on - a couple of weeks previously, my mother had seemed very tense and angry. When I tentatively enquired as to what was wrong, I was told that the counsellor had indicated to my sister that she felt she was 'stuck' at a very early age of development and started enquiring about how she had been raised by her mother! Mmmmm. 1 more session and sister was done! Oh that evil wicked woman who calls herself 'mother'. Feel so sad, and sorry for all of us Violet. Thanks for your blog. Oh, by the way - Golden Girl is 'getting the lot' in terms of mothers worldly goods, and has also had my share of past family inheritance's - found this out 25 years later - but she knew - and was quite happy to go along with it.

  18. I was the golden child of my dad, my elder middle brother was the scapegoat of my dad, yet the GC of mum whilst my eldest brother didn't have a role assigned with either parent.
    I know alot of SG on the internet seem to think the GC had it easy. They don't. No personality to speak of or definition of who you are as a person crushes you as you get older and begin to see what your parents actually are. Enmeshment is also a horrid place to weave yourself out. I was also parentified between my two parents despite the fact that I was the youngest. The only real reason I was assigned to be my Dad GC ( whilst my mum didn't pay much attention to me) was to prevent myself from being hit, which was something that I witnessed and heard on regular occasions.
    To those that slander GC please think before you comment as to why they are that way.


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